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Dear SJP and members of the UC community

I write to express my strong support for the University of California’s divestment from
companies (Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, Cemex, General Dynamics,
General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and
United Technologies) that directly facilitate extreme violence against Palestinian women,
men, and children, and which contribute meaningfully to their permanent state of
precariousness. These companies have directly (in some cases quite literally) cemented the
misery of apartheid and constructed the physical and technological infrastructure of
occupation, disenfranchisement, exclusion, and violence of a magnitude that is
unconscionable. Independent monitors, journalists, and human rights organizations have
found that Palestinians as well as African migrants are subject to racial, religious, and ethnic
discrimination in housing, education, employment and virtually all aspects of economic and
social life. Institutionalized racial violence pervades even in the provision of medical care—
Israeli officials have admitted to encouraging East African migrants to accept Depo-Provera
birth control injections; women who received these injections have described being deceived
and coerced into receiving these them after telling medical administrators that they did not
want them. They report being told that they would have to get these “inoculations” in order
to gain entry into Israel/Palestine.
Policies of segregation and exclusion amount to widespread and appalling racial, ethnic, and
religious criminalization and castigation that should be anathema to the values of the
American university system and the University of California mission to make diversity a core
aspect of its definition of excellence. This mission, and the university’s goal of promoting
the production and innovative use of knowledge, requires openness to student-led calls for
just and reasonable practices in the face of substantial evidence of social harm and human
rights violations. Each day we encourage University of California students to seek new
knowledge, to question previously held assumptions, and to energetically embrace the task
of promoting the good of California and the broader world. We should be proud of them
when they take up such worthy and difficult challenges. In this instance they conclude that
their university, dedicated to the public good, must address existing evidence of human
rights violations and should use this available knowledge to avoid promoting and/or
profiting from the systematic and often deadly repression of Palestinian civil society. This
conclusion is not only correct, but exemplifies the University’s core values of inclusion,
openness, and academic excellence.
Anti-Palestinian rituals of humiliation and exclusion may be exemplified in the experience of
Yara Karmalawy, a Palestinian American University of California student who was denied
entry into Israel/Palestine. She was separated from her student peers and interrogated by an
Israeli soldier who pointed his gun in her face. Although she is an American citizen, her
passport was stamped with a Palestinian ID number that would mark her at every
checkpoint, she spent ten hours under interrogation, and was told “there is no such thing as
Palestine anyway.” She describes being stripped of her identity, erased of her history, and
labeled as “less than.” Academic freedom thwarted and life threatened, her experience
represents only a sliver of the immobilization, surveillance, and extreme vulnerability that
Palestinians face; the near-daily reports of Palestinian civilian deaths by Israeli military forces
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serve as testament to the unyielding threat of violence that marks the lives of people, young
and old, living in Gaza and the West Bank. The United Nations reports that approximately
11,000 Palestinians living in 32 communities located between the wall and the Green Line
depend on the granting of Israeli permits or special arrangements to live in their own
The United Nations has found that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are “not only illegal
under international law but are an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by the whole
population.” Yet just this month (November 2014) Israel has released plans for 185 miles of
new roads for the purposes of 200 new settlement units. In 2012 the UN’s committee on
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also professed profound concern over the
blockade of materials for the construction of Palestinian houses “and civilian
infrastructures, such as schools, hospitals and water plants,” into the Gaza Strip. Alongside
the settlements, physical barriers, and economic blockade is Israel’s practice of military
urbanism, which according to Newcastle University professor Stephen Graham, consists of
the widespread criminalization of Palestinian people, the representation of Palestinian cities
and spaces of social life as threatening, and the demolition of social infrastructure. After a
recent visit to Palestine, activist Dream Hampton has described this as the shocking
militarization of land and culture. These entrenched and illegal assaults on human rights are,
quite evidently, worthy of condemnation and rebuke.
Death, discrimination, and development policy are inseparable in Israeli state policy.
Independent human rights organizations have found that during “Operation Protective
Edge” Israel deliberately targeted inhabited civilian homes. More than 2,000 Palestinians
were killed including more than 500 children; more than 3,000 children were injured. The
question put forward by SJP is very simple: does investing in companies that provide critical
material (technological, infrastructural, military) support for such ruination conform to the
core values of the University of California? The answer, of course, is no.
University of California students are trained to raise critical questions and they have done so
with this divestment call.
Moreover, the University of California has historically
demonstrated leadership in considering global suffering generally and refusing to support
apartheid specifically. Cruelty and dehumanization need not be funded. Light is a precious
commodity in Gaza, where even before the most recent military attack, rations, blockades,
and the destruction of power plants caused most Palestinians to suffer, with only eight hours
of light per day. And yet it is precisely light that University of California students are
attempting to shed on the darkness of occupation.
--Sarah Haley
Assistant Professor of Gender Studies and African American Studies

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